UPDATE from Louise: As you may have noticed from recent social media posts, I have begun adding gluten-free items to our regular menu. This may seem strange given the bakery motto, Glutenus Maximus. Well, during our winter break, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that responds negatively to gluten. This makes me incredibly sad because I am a lover of all things baked with wheat flour, be they croissants or sourdough.
I’m still coming to terms with my new gluten-free life. Rather than spiral into an abyss of wheat-less self-pity, I have set myself a challenge: Learn how to bake gluten-free treats that actually taste good—not like overly sweetened cardboard. I will be sharing my successes with you throughout the season.
What about the bakery? The future remains unclear. Can I breathe in wheat flour all day, every day, from now through December? How will it affect me? Only time will tell.
I do know that our extraordinary team will be back this year and will take on greater responsibilities. The biggest change involves Harriet’s role. She has been with us since we opened five years ago and is interested in possibly running the bakery herself. She will begin by training to take over Andrew’s position as baguette baker.
We will see how things go this summer but, at this point, it looks as if this might be my last season as primary baker and owner. My new personal motto: Glutenus Minimus.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
When our family moved to the Eastern Shore from San Francisco in 2002, we fell in love with the bucolic lifestyle. But we missed one particular aspect of our old life: good bread.
So I started to bake my own. I've always been passionate about baking, but I really started to get serious. I read bread books, bread blogs, anything I could get my hands on. I baked. And I baked. I learned how to capture wild yeast and turn it into a starter (affectionately known as “mother”). Eighteen years later, here I am—with the help of my family—baking a variety of breads and a bunch of other treats. What began as a project to satisfy my family launched into a small business.
For eight years I sold my breads at different farmers' markets. Like my "mother," my business kept growing. Our large farmhouse kitchen couldn't sustain the growth (and quite frankly, neither could I). I had a decision to make: Stop baking and save the sanity of my family and me, or move out. I couldn't stand the thought of saying goodbye to all my great customers. Not bake? Painful to think about. So when I was approached about setting up shop in Cape Charles, I jumped. Maybe I'm crazy to open a bakery in a small town, but I'm up for the challenge. I hope you are ready to join me in this next step.
Keeping it all in the family: Meet my husband and chief baguette wizard, Andrew. When he's not rolling out dough, he's behind the scenes doing more than can be listed. FYI: His accent is totally not Eastern Shore.
And finally, our children. One of our goals when we moved to the Eastern Shore in 2002 was to teach our son and daughter where their food comes from. During our first summer at The Bakery you may have spotted them behind the counter, laminating dough, mixing up batches of cookies, or doing a hundred other things. We feel confident that they have a solid understanding of what makes real food.
we close in winter
We get this question a lot. Here's a little background on our business:
As you've read, we are a made-from-scratch bakery. What does this really mean? It means all the pastry, bread, cookies—everything—that fills our counters are made by either myself, my husband, or our team of students. We are self-taught. We do not buy pre-made dough, mixes, or pastry. In addition to baking, I’m teaching and coordinating staff, purchasing ingredients, planning menus, talking to customers, attempting to do social media posts...the list goes on.
From spring through Labor Day I am working seven days a week. We are closed two days to give our staff time to recover, do prep for the week uninterrupted, and to rest/sleep for an extra hour or two. By the time Labor Day arrives I am physically and mentally exhausted (as is our team). After Labor Day when our team returns to school and the town empties we move to weekends through December then we close for the season. During this time, if you look in our windows throughout the week, you’ll likely see me doing prep for the weekend.
Our reason for closing in winter has always been a business decision. Cape Charles is empty in winter. Food businesses need people to consume their products. Without customers we’re left with a lot of product that cannot be sold the next day…product that must be given away, taken home, or composted. This unsold product translates to a financial loss.
For eight years I sold my breads and other treats at area farmers’ markets. If you’ve visited Chatham Vineyard and had a bread and cheese plate, your’re eating my bread. If you’ve eaten at The Grilled Cheese Bistro in Norfolk you may have had my bread. I have never considered any of this a hobby. It’s a business that I chose and really enjoy. The best part: based on many smart decisions it is a profitable business.
As we move into our fifth year at 236 Mason Ave (my 14th year baking for people other than my family), we will continue to have our made-from-scratch baked goods but we will also be focusing more on ourselves and our health. Our hours and what we offer will change.
Stay tuned. —Louise